The mammalian immune system is an enormously complex system, understanding of which is crucial to human health.  This EMBO Workshop aims to gather together scientists who share a broad interest in investigating the immune system by applying systems biology approaches. It also aims to promote innovative ideas and collaborative efforts in unraveling the system-wide properties that enable the robust functioning of the immune system.

Homeostasis is crucial to proper immune function. The mammalian immune system is constantly challenged and requires continuing adjustments to its regulatory mechanisms in order to maintain its balance. Challenges to this homeostatic state may come from the external milieu (e.g. microbes) or from the internal milieu (e.g. metabolites), causing disruption of immune function and leading to a variety of diseases, such as autoimmunity, allergy, metabolic syndromes and cancer.

The robust functioning of the immune system is thought to rely on a highly complex multi-level interaction network, linking intracellular biochemical networks, intercellular communication networks and inter-organ cellular trafficking networks through space and time. Understanding, modeling and predicting the behavior of such a complex system presents a scientific challenge that is going to have profound implications on human health and the prevention of disease. It also represents an intriguing paradigm for how complexity can achieve diversity (e.g. antibody repertoire) and yet maintain specificity (e.g. antigen specificity). Thus, deciphering the complexity of how the immune system works not only requires biochemical, cellular and molecular approaches, but also 'omics', computational and modelling approaches.

Recent years have seen the emergence of 'systems biology' approaches that are now applicable to human studies. This will represent a necessary step to advance our basic understanding of the human immune system, its de-regulation in human diseases and to enable future translational applications based on these basic findings. Keeping this in perspective, the present workshop aims at discussing the state-of-the-art knowledge on the complexity of the human immune system as a whole, as well as catalyzing new ideas on how best to address this problem using a combination of systems biology, immunology and computational techniques.

Topics presented will span from modeling of the interactions that take place within and between immune cells that lead to the emergence of polarized and effective immune responses, to the interaction of the immune system with both commensal and pathogenic microbes, which determine the balance between immune homeostasis and infectious disease. Mathematical, statistical and computational methods to analyze and model systems-level data and make inferences and predictions about emerging properties of these complex systems will also be discussed.

We foresee this EMBO Workshop to provide excellent opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration and to expose scientists to the latest experimental approaches and computational techniques in the field. We believe that this workshop will encourage and provide a strong impetus towards the development of "human systems immunology" as a major theme in biomedical research. Junior scientists are especially encouraged to apply, as this will likely represent a unique networking opportunity to foster early-stage careers in this exciting new field.




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